Long-term Approach to preventing future blooms
Efforts are focused on reducing nutrients (e.g. phosphates and nitrates) being added to our waterways that can fuel the blue-green algae. Many of the mitigations, such as chemical control of the blue-green algae, could negatively impact upon the natural flora and fauna. The focus needs to be upon ensuring the conditions that favour the blooms are avoided. This includes nutrient management in agriculture, domestic and industrial situations. This will involve the treatment of our wastewater, the wise use of water, and better management of nutrients on farms.
To achieve this, DAERA works in partnership with stakeholders, ranging from councils, public sector groups, to local community groups, and Rivers Trusts. Examples of the actions being undertaken:
- River Basin Management Plan and associated measures
This will outline a Programme of Measures across a number of Government Departments and other organisations that are designed to improve water quality and move towards the aim of getting all water bodies to “Good or better status” by 2027, except where a few limited exemptions apply.
- Soil Nutrient Health Scheme
DAERA will provide support and advice on soil health through soil testing and one to one advice as part of the innovative Soil Nutrient Health Scheme. This will allow farmers to more accurately match nutrient applications to crop need, therefore reducing excess runoff to the water environment.
- INTERREG VA and PeacePlus
Large projects to improve water quality have been funded through the EU Interreg Program which funded projects like Catchment Care. This €13.8 million project included focus on the Blackwater River catchment, Lough Neagh’s largest tributary, to put in place measures to improve water quality and reduce nutrients entering water ways. There will be further support from the EU for water quality initiatives through the Peace Plus.
- Agriculture Initiatives
DAERA currently provides funding schemes to incentivise farmers into agreements to deliver a range of environmental measures, such as the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS). The water quality elements seek to reduce nutrients running off agricultural land into water ways.
Example of Riparian Fencing
- DAERA Environment Fund
DAERA Environment Fund is funding a project being delivered by the Ballinderry Rivers Trust on Ballinderry River. This project puts in place targeted agriculture water quality advice and funds mitigations that go beyond those available within the Environmental Farming Scheme. This project is aimed at conserving the critically endangered Freshwater Pearl Mussel in the Ballinderry River.
- Additional Partnerships
DAERA has also been working in partnership through the Water Catchment Partnership (WCP) forum with NI Water Ltd, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) for 10 years to address pesticide issues in drinking water catchments, through promotion of best practise techniques and guidance.
Water Catchment Partnership at an agriculture show
NIEA also engages with local stakeholders and Rivers Trusts regarding water quality issues or concerns. For example, NIEA has been engaging with the Six Mile Water Trust for a number of years, with members trained in River Fly monitoring and involvement in the Yellow Fish Campaign, which promotes the message of ‘Only rain down the drain’. NIEA also administers the delivery of Water Quality Improvement Grants, a fund which is designed to promote, connect with, and protect your local water environment. This year 12 projects will receive a total of £260K of funding.
Yellow Fish campaign promoting ‘Only rain down the drain’
The 'Only rain down the drain' campaign involves stakeholders marking footpaths and kerbs near surface water drains with a Yellow Fish symbol, to communicate the message “only rain down the drain”. It is hoped that this simple, visual prompt will remind people that what is put down those drains flows directly to the nearest waterway, thus causing pollution and environmental damage.